BEST OF VANCOUVER INTERNATIONAL WINE FESTIVAL #VIWF 2015

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I’m just back from the first day of tasting at Vancouver Wine Fest. The Savour Australia room is open from 230-5 for people in the trade (writers, wine buyers, restauranteurs), and it’s a nice chance to cruise the room and take advantage of the smaller crowds before the evening sessions which can get a little crazy… like 10 people deep at the table crazy.

What shocked me today is that I have more whites than reds to recommend. When you think of Aussie wine, don’t you immediately picture a juicy, jammy red? The whites were gorgeous; lively, great concentration and distinct flavours. I didn’t stick to just the Aussie’s though, I perused the entire hall, so there are wines below from Spain to New York state. The items I’ve listed below are either delicious, unique and delicious, or hard to find and delicious. 

Here, in no particular order at the whites I think you’ll enjoy:

~Mionetto Luxury Cartizze DOCG is a flagship Prosecco. It was creamy, with light mousse, apples and lemon. Not tart, overly foamy or aggressive like some Proseccos can be, this is the Champagne of Prosecco (sorry, I had to say it). $40-50.

~Mount Pleasant Lovedale Semillon 2007. I tried this, and couldn’t believe how rich and creamy the mouthfeel was. Then I learned that the wine had aged for 8 years, and yet somehow manages to taste bright and fresh. It’s a mouthful of mineral and lime goodness, but oh that texture is sexy. This wine is unlike any Semillon you’ve had before, seek it out! $50.

~McWilliams Tumbarumba Chardonnay 2013. So maybe I just love saying Tumbarumba, but this tasty Chard shows how vibrantly acidic yet balanced Aussie whites can be. A little apple and some oak, with creamy lees notes, just lovely. $20-30.

~Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch Chardonnay 2012. My favourite Chardonnay of the day was this wild fermented beauty from the Victoria region of Oz. It had a voluptuous and silky texture, and flavours of yeast, and lots of fresh fruit. Quality doesn’t come cheap though… $40-50.

~Brotherhood Sparkling Chardonnay. This New Yorker sparkler was very tasty indeed, and hails from America’s oldest winery established in 1839 in the Hudson Valley. We hear a lot about NY wines, but don’t get a chance to taste too many. Crisp, dry but not too dry, delish. $20.

~Devil’s Lair 2012 & The Hidden Cave 2014 Margaret River Chardonnay. Here’s a pretty pair from the far West coast of Oz, perfect for tasting together. The The Hidden Cave is unoaked, fresh, vibrant Chardonnay and the Devil’s Lair has seen some goodly oaking, and is perfect for someone who loves Cali Chard but wouldn’t mind a little more refinement. No oak vs. oak – you be the judge! The Hidden Cave $20-30. Devil’s Lair $40.

Sweeter Stuff:

~Goldtropfchen Auslese Riesling 2011. For those who like a little sugar in their bowl, this Mosel Valley beauty balances tight acidity with the perfect dose of sweetness, and the Riesling aromatics we all love (a little diesel, honeysuckle, stone fruit). $30-40.

~De Bortoli Noble One Botrytis Semillon 2011. From pretty Riverina comes this botrytis (“noble rot”) affected sweetie. This is lighter and brighter than I expected, full of apricot, orange peel, whiteflower honey, and some vanilla. $30 for 1/2 bottle.

~Taylor Fladgate 1965 Very Old Single Harvest Port. What can I say about this one? I didn’t spit it out, that’s for sure. It is a gorgeous golden cinnamon brown, and smelled of sweet tobacco, brown sugar and Christmas cake. Seek this out and savour (there was no one at the stand at the beginning of the show, but by last call it was a wall of elbows). $300.

~Gonzalez Byass Apostoles VORS 30 Yr Palo Cortado. If you don’t already love Sherry, give this a try. It just sings on the palate with a luscious undercurrent of briny sea smoke, and a layer of spicy, sweet baking spices. I bought a bottle of this one to put away for a rainy day. $35 for 1/2 bottle.

Reds:

~Cleto Chiarli Grasparossa di Castelvetro Amabile Lambrusco. Call me crazy, but I wasn’t keen on tasting five Lambruscos today. But wow, am I glad I did. This table is completely unique in the tasting hall. Ranging from lighter rose style Lambrusco, to this Amabile (sweet) style, every glass was smooth, sultry, with mild rounded tannins. Just plain elegant (not in the pejorative sense). None of that grittiness that can come with the territory. The Amabile is chilled before fermentation is completed to keep some residual sugar in the bottle. It’s not overtly sugary, there’s just enough to offset the keen acids, and highlight the smooth cherry notes. $30.

~Peter Lehmann 1885 Shiraz 2013. The vines that made this wine were planted in hot Barossa Valley in 1885, and they are giving concentrated, lush, ripe wine even today. The nose on this wine was plush, spicy and had lots of brambly fruit. This is a bottle to open by the fireplace for an evening of relaxed conversation and contemplation. When I think of good quality Aussie Shiraz, this is what it should taste like. $50.

~Wolf Blass Grey Label Shiraz 2012. This is from McLaren Vale and it’s rich, ripe, with toasty mocha and plenty of black fruit and spice. Bonus, it’s ready to quaff now! $30-40.

#VIWF has got something for everyone - let me know if you have a favourite that I missed.

TOP 3 TO TRY AT VANCOUVER INTERNATIONAL WINE FEST #VIFW 2015

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Hey wine fox! The public tasting nights are on now at Vancouver Wine Fest 2015.

The theme is Australia Shiraz/Syrah, and there are an incredible 170 wineries represented at the event. A little overwhelming right?

Well, you can always do what I do, and have a few “must try” wines to seek out before trying all those other incredible looking wines you’ve never heard of!

Here are my three picks for you to check out:

1) Start out your night with a sparkling from the land of the Tasmanian Devil! Tasmanian sparkling wine is so hot right now, which is a little ironic, as it hails from one of the coolest regions in Australia. The Jansz Premium Cuvee is made in the Methode Tasmanoise (a cute riff on Champenoise) on the North-Eastern corner of the island in red basalt soil. Expect creamy bubbles with a fruity hit of strawberry, honeysuckle and citrus… Yum!

2) Then, if you’re feeling up for a powerhouse red, get to the Wolf Blass table early to beat the crowds. Start with some of their delish Chard, before moving to the reds. Their Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz has ranked high in a blind test with some of the most expensive Bordeaux Cabs in the world. This is a great chance to taste a $100+ cult Cab and decide whether you think it’s worth all the fuss (I do!).

3) Since we’re ostensibly at VanWineFest to celebrate all things Shiraz (Australia is the focus, but wineries from all over the world are here), make sure to stop by the Yalumba table to try their Octavius Shiraz. Named for the 100L oak barrels (called ‘octaves’) made onsite by their own coopers, the grapes come from some very old vines in the hot Barossa Valley. Yalumba is the oldest family owned Aussie winery, and they make some truly delicious bottles. Also be sure to try their wild fermented Y Series Viognier, a silky little number with full body and lots of stone fruit.

PS: there are some legit old world fortified wine houses at the tasting. Before you leave, make sure to visit the Taylor-Fladgate, Fonseca, Croft & Gonzalez Byass tables for a little night cap!

Have fun! If you have a hot tip about a wine I’ve got to try at VIWF 2015, let me know below in the comments.

DRINKING COCKTAILS IN VANCOUVER'S GASTOWN

In the oldest quarter of the City of Glass, a cocktail revival is underway. Follow the rush along rainy brick streets to Gastown, where young men with serious moustache street cred and women channeling Dorothy Parker, are concocting some of the most exciting drinks in the Pacific Northwest, all within stumbling distance of each other.

Pourhouse

162 Water Street, Open Daily

Seat yourself at the long bar to get the full gold rush revival experience, and to see close up all the work that goes into handcrafting each unique drink, such as slapping mint leaves and selecting bitters. Bartenders are happy to custom mix based on your preferences. Order the Don’t Give Up The Ship, with trendy acquired taste Fernet Branca tempered with gin and curaçao, or go for a classic Sidecar. Mixologist Rhett Williams has recently been experimenting with shrubs, a vinegar-based fruit syrup that can be spiced up with liquor. Make sure to watch out for his weekly roster of shrubs featuring finds like watermelon, bourbon, and wine vinegar, or the appealing dark cherry, balsamic, and peaty scotch.

The Diamond

2nd Floor, 6 Powell Street, Open Tues-Sun

Head upstairs to the second floor, where you’re greeted by fantastic stag’s head crystal chandeliers and a view of Gastown’s main square from the many tall antique windows. There’s a small bar stacked to the gills with all kinds of potions and bottles that fills up fast. Try the New Orleans Sour, a concoction of bourbon, cognac, egg white, bitters, and absinthe, or a Penicillin, a blend of scotch, ginger, lemon, and honey. The cocktail menu is generously populated with vermouths, hard to find Creme de Violette and maraschino, and members of the bitter liqueur society such as Amaro and Cynar.

Clough Club

212 Abbott Street, Open Daily

With its red-lit chesterfield banquettes, worn pressed-tin walls, and glowing wall sconces, you’ll have no trouble imagining yourself in prohibition era New York. Order the popular Apiary, a bourbon and honey cocktail spiced with walnut bitters and topped with egg white foam. Cocktails here are dark-spirit heavy, so rye, bourbon and whisky enthusiasts take note. They’re experimenting with in-house barrel aging, if this appeals try their house Negroni (Beefeater gin, Campari, sweet vermouth). Live music wednesday to sunday.